These are images of stained glass windows at The Carmelite Monastery in Mobile, Alabama. This congregation prays for the needs of those served by the Edmundite Missions. Fr. Richard Myhalyk, S.S.E. served as their chaplain and has given several Christmas retreats for the Carmelite nuns in Mobile. Photos by Fr. Richard Myhalyk, S.S.E.
Some thoughts to ponder as we close 2019 and make our New Year’s resolutions
Homily by Fr. Richard Myhalyk, S.S.E.
This week’s bulletin attempts to highlight the state of family life both nationally and locally. Family life is certainly changing according to Pew Research. Pew reports: Two parent households are on the decline in the United States as divorce, remarriage and cohabitation are increasing. Families are smaller now. Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse and, for many, constantly evolving family forms. By contrast, in 1960, the height of the post-World War II baby boom, there was one dominant family form. At that time 73% of all children were living in a family with two married parents in their first marriage. Today, less than half (46%) do. Black children and those with less educated parents are less likely to be living in two-parent households. For the less educated, more births occur outside of marriage. In four-in-ten, mom is the primary breadwinner.
Locally in the five counties served by the Edmundite Missions 81% of the households served are single-parent. The Missions provides assistance to over 1,000 children each year, 80% of whom are under the age of 13. Alabama’s median household income is $48,193 or $12,143 less than the national median of $60,336. Selma’s median household income is one third that of the nation. The average income of those whom the Missions serves is $11,000, half that of the Selma average. I am very conscious that real families – both near and far – are often very challenged families!
What message should I preach – faced with such a challenging and perplexing portrait of family life?
I found myself drawn to what Paul offers us in Colossians 3:12-21. Here is where Paul instructs us about the practicalities of Christian life. Just before today’s verses, Paul lists sins and faults to avoid. These failings are to be taken off like dirty clothes. Then he tells us that when we were baptized, we put on a new self which is Christ. This is where our reading begins; it is in three parts.
The first part continues the clothing metaphor. Paul sees us as God's special creation whose lives have distinctive characteristics. Authentic Christians proudly display these characteristics like articles of clothing. The qualities we “put on” constitute a sort of uniform – they’re our identity. The overall identity is seen as “love” and this overall bond of love shows itself in multiple ways. We are to be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle, patient and forgiving of others. That’s what a true Christian life is all about.
Do we have heartfelt mercy? Probably not, if we continually point out the faults and mistakes of others. Do we have humility and gentleness? Humility isn't thinking less of ourselves; it’s thinking of ourselves less. Gentleness and humility take a deep long look at oneself before it judges others.
And, then there's patience! Do we get upset and loose our cool over just about anything? I don’t know about you, but patience is hardest for me when I’m unable to control or resolve challenges.
Mercy, humility, gentleness, and patience all have to do with an openness to others. Do we insist that everything must be done according to our will? Do I think “my” way of doing, saying or fixing is the only “right” way?
Bear with one another! Now that's something to think about. What about tolerance in our family life and our relationships? How does the BEAR in “bear with one another” manifest itself in our lives? Is the bear a NOUN – meaning a grizzly bear? Is the bear a VERB – meaning to tolerate, to understand, to adjust, and to change. That’s what Paul is teaching. How well do we bear with one another?
The second part is a lyrical and carefully balanced passage. The ultimate foundation of all Christian behavior is Jesus the Lord and gratitude. We’re told to cultivate hearts filled with the peace of Christ and be grateful. Let the Lord teach you and respond with songs of gratitude for what you learn from Christ. Do everything under the auspices of Christ and give thanks to the Father through him. Our life together is to be the life of Christ and a life of thankfulness.
In the third and final part Paul offers a very specific list of directives for family life. Wives, husbands, children, parents are to defer to one another. We are to care for one another in the context of the Lord’s will and presence. The issue is not who is supposed to be the boss in the family. Paul teaches Christ is to be expressed in all of our relationships with one another. Be loving and considerate of one another because of the presence and life of Christ in us. Christ’s presence and life in us should make us consistently and habitually grateful. This is the secret of Christian family life and of all other interpersonal relationships.
During my 35-years offering Catholic Engaged Encounter weekends, I remember discussing Paul’s words “wives be subordinate to your husbands”. A wife on the team said: “I would gladly subordinate my life to my husband if he acted like Jesus!” That’s exactly Paul’s point. Notice that Paul immediately says, “husbands love your wives!”
It isn’t a matter of searching out and getting close to people we find compatible, interesting, attractive or who “like us” on Facebook. It isn’t a matter of loving them for their human gifts, they might share with us. It's a matter of being Christ to one another. It’s a matter of seeing Christ in others. It’s a matter of reaching out to others in the Christ who lives in us.
It doesn’t take place as a burdensome demand. It doesn’t take place out of fear of punishment if we don't shape up. It takes place in a context of gratitude. Gratitude for the presence of the Lord in those around us and gratitude for the presence of the Lord in us. Gratitude is always appropriate because everything we are and have is gift. Gifts call for gratefulness.
The commercial asks: what’s in your wallet? Paul asks: what virtues are you wearing?
Our world is often filled with violence and hatred. Paul asks: Have you cultivated a heart filled with love and the peace of Christ?
Christ seems so absent in our world. Paul asks: Could it be that we fail to recognize him in others and fail to be him for others?
Photos submitted by Brother Thomas Berube, S.S.E.
Ring in the new year with a resolution to travel abroad with a great group of folks! Father Marcel Rainville, S.S.E. is preparing to take "The President’s Historical Trip to the Edmundite Foundation Places in France,” scheduled for June 16- June 25, 2020. Saint Michael’s College President Lorraine Sterritt, her husband, Professor Bert Lain, and Father Marcel are hosting the trip which includes all flights, 8 nights in select hotels with breakfast included, four dinners with wine or beer, guided tours in a private motor coach and more.
Interested? For more information visit https://grouptoursite.com/tours/edmundite
Vive la France!
Strategically placed green gumdrops formed the word “Jets” on the roof of an iced gingerbread house, in honor of Father Mike Cronogue, S.S.E. who loved the football team and crafting these Christmas structures. In an effort to keep the love alive, alumni, staff and students gathered in Alliot Hall lobby to partake in one of his favorite activities on Dec. 10.
A big “thank you” goes to Sodexo who generously supplied this year’s sturdy, fully iced village.
Word on the street is Father Mike was far from an expert gingerbread house artisan. For about a decade, prior to his death three years ago, he would make the most garish, treat-covered house on the gingerbread block every holiday season. Business professor Paul Olsen laughed as he said, “Mike was terrible at it. His rooftops always collapsed.”
Paul said he misses his dear friend. “This is a really nice way to remember him,” he said.
Director of Enrollment Operations Robin Astor agreed. She said the tradition began with SMC Alumna Amy Calvert who masterfully designed the exquisite gingerbread houses Father Mike so adored. “He loved decorating gingerbread houses with all of us,” she said. “He was such a kid about it. It was contagious.”
Robin said Father Mike was a pivotal part of the SMC community and that she misses his enthusiasm and warmth. “We miss his smile, his humor and the way he would check in with everyone,” she said. “He had a finger on the pulse of the college. He touched so many lives. He is irreplaceable.”
This is an Italian custom. The Pope blesses the infant figures in St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent. Here we have Father David Cray blessing them at St. Jude The Apostle Parish in Hinesburg!
Mass Schedule for St. Michael's Chapel:
Mass on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, will be at 4 pm and Mass on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, will be at 11 am.
(Please note that there will be no 8:00 pm Mass on Christmas Eve, and the 4:00 pm Mass is not a Children’s Mass.)
SOLEMNITY OF MARY
Mass on Jan. 1 at 11 am (back altar space)
Please join us for Christmas Eve Mass at Saint Anne's Shrine on December 24th at 4:00 PM in the Boucher building.
When Edmundite Father Stephen Hornat isn’t tending to his flock, you’ll likely find him plowing the Parish parking lot, or fixing up the gutters. It seems he’s taken his jack-of-all trades expertise—honed over his many years as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer—to support the bustling St. Stephen Parish in Winooski, Vermont.
He makes it clear right on his website, “St. Stephen Parish is a ministry of The Society of Saint Edmund.” Five years ago, when he arrived to take over as pastor, this Parish was ripe for that special sense of hospitality and community he and his Edmundite brothers bring. “Our charism is one of accompaniment with people who are on the margins,” Father Hornat said. “This is a great place to plant the Edmundite spirit.”
Father was Superior General of The Society of Saint Edmund when he took on his role at St. Stephen. Prior to that, he served in Selma, Alabama for fifteen years where he was Director of Programs at Edmundite Missions, ran a volunteer corps, and served as pastor at Queen of Peace Parish.
St. Stephen Parishioner Chris Rabidoux said the Church had been searching for a sense of unity for some time. “We have become a family again,” she said. “We found direction again. Father Steve is a comforting presence for us. And he can sing!”
Father Hornat refuses to take all of the credit for the newfound unity. “It’s not just me,” he said. “We have such a talented group of people in the music ministry, and social outreach ministry, and that combination is successful. The whole idea is to build a vibrant Parish community together.”
Father Hornat was also pastor at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Burlington at one time. There he started The Joseph’s House, founded in 2000, to serve the Old North end to promote social change in the community through outreach and Parish ministry and to assist with a variety of needs, such as utility shut-offs, food, clothing, bus passes and personal hygiene items.
His passion for outreach continues at St. Stephen where they just completed a successful Thanksgiving collection of children’s hats, mittens and scarves, which were distributed through Winooski Elementary School, Winooski Food Shelf and the Winooski Family Center. They are presently raising funds through their Advent Giving Tree program. They will distribute about $1,500 worth of Shaw’s Gift Cards to needy families this season.
Through the work of the Social Outreach Committee, the Parish is socially engaged in the Winooski Community and with homebound Parishioners. “This committee does an outstanding job keeping our nursing home and homebound connected to the Parish,” Father Hornat said.
Social Outreach Committee Coordinator Sheila Cort-Desrochers said the Church has a vibrant daily mass at 7:30 every morning. “Father Steve gives a great homily and we all love it,” she said. “It is like a little retreat. His role, and the role of the Edmundites, is to help us on our journey through this life. He offers us words of encouragement and uplifts us. He nurtures us.”
Chris Rabidoux added that Music Director Peg Lesage plays an important role in the Parish and many rely heavily on her direction. Father Hornat said lay leadership has become a central component in running a successful Parish and he welcomes any and all talents into the fold at St. Stephen.
“It is all part of being a community and being there for one another,” Sheila said. “People today are looking for that. We feel blessed to have the leadership and guidance of Father Steve. He brought us together and encourages us to keep doing this good work.”
Advent Confessions: The Sacrament of Penance will be available at 6:30 pm on Wed., Dec. 11 at Saint Stephen’s Parish in Winooski with Edmundite Fathers Berube, Theroux and Hornat. See you there!
To extend the sentiments of last week’s post about the Martyrs of Uganda, Father Richard Myhalyk, S.S.E. reflects on the mural this week. He said historians still heavily debate the reasons behind the Ugandan persecutions and that political factors certainly played a part as well. Those killed included minor chiefs, some of whom were the victims of particular grudges by their seniors—those in power, Father Myhalyk explained. “They were jealous that these up and coming young men would soon be ousting them from their powerful positions,” he said.
This preoccupation with maintaining control reminds Father Myhalyk of the Civil Rights struggle and the Black youth of the 1960s who were determined to make things better. “They were youth filled with enormous hope and driven by a commitment to their Christian faith,” he said. “Hopefully, the Edmundite Center of Hope and the Selma parish sustain that hope and faith today just as a Center of Concern continues to sustain Catholic Social Outreach in Gadsden and Anniston where Edmundites once served.”
In 1965, Edmundite Father Maurice Ouellet spoke to the students of Saint Michael’s College, and Father Myhalyk was there. “His words described the horror of Bloody Sunday earlier that year—words that deeply impacted me as a Junior Chemistry major.”
“They were very unsettling words—words that certainly did not encourage me to head straight for Selma immediately after graduation," Father Myhalyk said.
He was conscious, however, that some members of his SMC Class of 1966 did head south while they were still students. They participated in the Elizabeth City Tutorial Project that helped prepare Black youth to enter college and succeed. Black Edmundites Moses Anderson and James Robinson, in many ways, pioneered what later became Volunteer Corps in other religious congregations. Father Myhalyk began ministering in Alabama in the 1970s.
Today Father Myhalyk serves in Selma in one of the only truly integrated churches. There are more than 200 Christian churches in Dallas County but Our Lady Queen of Peace is where Blacks and Whites worship and work together. “But the needs of Selma are great—perhaps greater today than in 1937 when Edmundites first arrived,” Father Myhalyk said.
Father Myhalyk provides pastoral care for Catholics in Selma and Orrville, Alabama and until recently at two women's prisons and two men's prisons. He still works closely with a pastoral team who enter Julia Tutwiler Prison and the Montgomery Women's Facility when priests in Montgomery are not available. He does provide a weekly mailing to prisoners who want to reflect upon the Sunday scriptures. His previous involvement with Vermont Dismas House prepared him for this special ministry.
He also ministers to the cadets at Marion Military Institute, which prepares many to enter the USA military academies. Last year's Campus Ministry at Marion Military Institute included a weekly Wednesday evening RCIA series in which two cadets, Gabe Downing and Elliott Mello as well as their sponsor, Joe Daniel, II, participated. Gabe and Elliott were received into the Catholic faith at last year's Easter Vigil. This year Gabe, Elliott and Joe are at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Having served in many posts since his ordination, he said he has been committed to each assignment and Selma is no exception. “Each assignment has been a response to being sent by the Society of St. Edmund to use my gifts and talents,” he said. “I pronounced my final vows on May 1, 1970 which is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. I was also ordained an Edmundite priest on that feast day a year later with fellow Edmundite Father Marcel Rainville.”
For Father Myhalyk, ministry is about fulfilling both religious vows in keeping with the charism and mission of the Edmundites and responding to the mandates given by the church at his ordination to the diaconate and priesthood by Bishop Robert Joyce, he said. These mandates are posted on his bulletin board in his office as a daily reminder:
“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.” (Mandate to deacons)
“Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing. Imitate the mystery you celebrate. Model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” (Mandate to priests)
The ordination mandates mesh well with the Society of St. Edmund’s mission of evangelization. Regardless of the particular ministry Edmundites are assigned to, they are about the task of drawing others into great Paschal mystery and proclaiming the gospel by what they say and do.
The Edmundite Mission of Evangelization says:
~ YOU are an integral part of the Church and her mission.
~ YOUR participation is vital to the Church and her mission.
~ YOUR gifts and talents are needed to build that mission.
~ YOU are called from being a stranger and alien to be a full partner.
Father Myhalyk said he is often drawn back to these words in the Early Edmundite Rule:
~Seek to serve as Jesus did.
~Make known the love of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.
~Make charity your primary virtue.
~Be solicitous for showing hospitality.
~Give priority to those most in need of your charity: The needy, the poor, the ignorant and sinners should share your love more than others
We live in troublesome times, Father Myhalyk said. “It is often difficult to see things in a positive light, but I find myself going back to words found in the Early Edmundite Rule. The founders recognized that the Society of St. Edmund in general and individual Edmundites in particular ought to reflect the four marks of the Church.”
Four marks of the Church:
~ONE – strive for unity in goals, governance, and vision; create a unified vision.
~HOLY – strive to grow in perfection, in the likeness of Christ (the divine model), and in witnessing his holiness; living the Word speaks more convincingly than our preaching and teaching.
~CATHOLIC – strive to be universal rather than parochial in your thinking and theology by merciful (adaptive) rather than rigid.
~APOSTOLIC – strive to acquire the heart and the mind of an apostle whose preeminent virtue is zeal. Know who you are (an apostle) and whose you are (God’s and the church’s representative.
“Imagine if our cities, our nation and our world were one and had a common vision. Imagine if each of us were more Christlike and willing and able to let go of our rigidly held positions and more focused on reaching out. Living the marks of the Church would surely make a real difference,” Father Myhalyk said.
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.